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24 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 437 (1990-1991)
Evil and the Law of Murder

handle is hein.journals/davlr24 and id is 449 raw text is: Evil and the Law of Murder

Samuel H. Pillsbury*
It should be the first task of philosophy, theology, psychology
- indeed, of all disciplines concerned with the study of man -
to find out why there are men who desire to kill and are capable
of killing. We should not hesitate to search for the primal cause
of evil. Once we see it clearly, we may be less evil than we are
When our age is remembered, surely one of the things we will
be remembered for is our killers. The dark side of America in the
late twentieth century includes an extraordinary tendency to
homicidal violence.2 The darkest aspect of the phenomenon
must be the acts of a small but significant number of killers who
seem to act out of pure evil, who kill for visceral or other material
We recognize the general dimensions of the problem; we dis-
cuss it at length. Our fear of such killers has boosted political
careers and helped revive the death penalty. Yet in one impor-
tant respect we have avoided the issue. In the intellectual dis-
* Professor of Law, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, J.D. University of
Southern California 1983, A.B. Harvard College 1976. I would like to thank
the participants of faculty workshops at Loyola and the University of
Southern California where I presented earlier drafts of this paper and Peter
Arenella, Thomas Morawetz, and Lawrence Solum for their criticisms and
I Ker6nyi, The Problem of Evil in Mythology, in EvIL 17 (Curatorium of C.G.
Jung Institute ed. 1967) (emphasis in original omitted).
2 The Senate Judiciary Committee in the summer of 1990 reported a
homicide rate for the United States of 10.5 per 100,000, making the nation
the most murderous industrialized nation in the world. L.A. Daily
Journal, Aug. 1, 1990, at 9, col. 1. Comparable rates for Great Britain were
0.8; Japan, 1.0; and Germany, 1.2. Id. The previous historic peak in the
nation's homicide rate as reported by the Department of Justice had been
10.2 per 100,000 in 1980. 1988 DEP'T OrJUSTICE, UNIFORM CRIME REPORTS
47 (1989). Figures for the last two decades represent an enormous increase
from the rates recorded at the beginning of the century. In 1903, for
example, the homicide rate for the United States was 1.1 per 100,000. 1988


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